Dragon’s Eye View

Coverdrone offers insurance to commercial drone operators from many different industries, and the varied workload never ceases to amaze us. Kicking off a new series of interviews with some of our many valued clients, we chatted with Simon from Dragon’s Eye Filming about how he got into the drone business, some of his recent projects, and of course a little techie-talk about exactly what kit he uses each day…

Simon Strickland capture by Amanda Cogan Barber

Simon Strickland capture by Amanda Cogan Barber

“As a teenager I loved to race radio controlled cars, then model planes as I got a bit older,” he told us. What came next, however, was a bit of a shocker.

“I worked as a countryside ranger for a long time. Then I learnt that I had a serious congenital heart condition, and the doctors insisted that I was monitored. It culminated with open-heart surgery in 2015, so that was a dramatic time in my life.”

It got worse. The time off and Simon’s inability to quickly return to the same workload ultimately saw him lose his job. From a regular work perspective, he realised that he was unemployable. But that encouraged him to go it alone and start his own business.

Dragons Eye Filming evolved because of my love for the countryside and my knowledge of model aircraft. The drone scene was still in its infancy, so I saw an opportunity. I just needed to get the right equipment and ensure that I gained the necessary certificates and permissions.”

Thankfully, Simons heart surgery has been a success and he was declared fully fit as his permissions came through.

“Coverdrone provided some great information, and made sure that I was properly insured for the work I planned to undertake. I also poured over the details on the CAA website to make sure that I fully understood the flying rules and regulations.”

The work was varied from day one, and projects with organisations like PondNet made sure that Simon also stayed close to nature.

“Wildlife is beautiful and diverse, but often hard to track down. PondNet collect data about endangered species, habitats and water quality, so with our hi-res cameras we can find even the smallest ponds in dense woodland. One aspect of the project saw us locating Great Crested newts!”

So how about that equipment?

“We have several drones and different camera combinations, but the Inspire Pro Black edition has to be one of my favourites. It has the X5 micro 4/3rds camera with a Sony sensor. What appeals to me is that we can use a selection of lenses depending on the requirement of the shot, and changing over the kit is quick and easy. We shoot in Ultra High Definition 4K when required, or occasionally lower resolution. It depends what the client wants to do with the drone footage we produce.”

One of the most popular services over the last twelve months has been inspection work, from rooftop surveys to close-up analysis of mobile phone cell towers.

“Small unmanned aircraft are perfect for work at height where technology is involved. Otherwise, engineers would have to take heavy equipment up ladders and risk working at height. I fly our drone around a transmitter tower and get close-up detail that will allow the maintenance teams to make decisions about repair work.”

Contracts with several large agencies also provided knock-on benefits. “I am covered from a safety perspective with my PFAW, but there are many occasions where you also need to check with local authorities and land owners before you begin to fly a drone. Working with some of the firms that maintain mobile phones masts has been quite straight forward, because they obtain the necessary permissions beforehand. That’s a huge help to small businesses like me, and saves a lot of time and emails.”

So what does the future hold as the drone industry evolves?

“The whole industry changes every few months. It’s important that I keep up with the latest drone news and also offer an increasing range of services. We hope to get permission to operate at night soon as well as have congested area permissions, and we have been training to make use of some cutting-edge thermal FLIR cameras. The footage will be unique, perhaps for search and rescue situations, thermal work and environmental surveys involving nocturnal creatures.”

This summer, a major Cheshire employer has also called upon Simon and his drone services.

“One project I’m excited about is the Mornflake Oat Olympics. A number of fitness bloggers will be competing in a cross-fitness training event in a field of oats, and I will be taking photos and shooting film from above. This will give the event an intriguing perspective and should be great fun for me.”

Many thanks to Simon for his time.

If you need advice about flying a drone and the insurance options available to commercial operators, please call 01270 448998 and chat with one of Coverdrone’s representatives.

Or if you’re an existing Coverdrone client and would like to feature in one of our blog posts please email jamie@johnheath.com.